While Mexican food reigns in Phoenix, Latin cuisine holds a special place in the hearts—and stomachs—of hungry diners looking for authentic dishes from such locales as Cuba, Puerto Rico, Peru and El Salvador (to name a few). If you’re looking to spice up your dining repertoire, here are 10 restaurants that give Latin foods a good name.
This cozy, family-owned eatery—located on Seventh Street’s busy restaurant corridor—serves just about the most authentic flavors from Peru you’ll find in Phoenix. Owned by husband and wife Esperanza Luzcando and Jose Ramirez, and son Omar Velarde (who is also the head chef), El Chullo pays tribute to Andean cuisine and culture in décor, ambiance and menu. Come for the ceviche, made with fresh fish marinated in lime juice and served with sweet potatoes and Peruvian corn; but stay for the arroz con pollo, a hearty dish of braised, bone-in chicken served on a bed of seasoned cilantro rice.
2605 N 7th St, Phoenix 85006
While Salvadorian cuisine is diverse, one dish defines the distinct flavors of this Central American region: pupusas. A typical Salvadorian treat, pupusa is a thick masa tortilla stuffed with beans, cheese and meat, and accompanied by curtido (pickled cabbage) and salsa roja (tomato sauce). The traditional food is sold on the streets of El Salvador and is a favorite dish of the owners of Salvadoreño Restaurant, where they take their pupusas seriously. Fillings include pork, chicken, grilled steak, mushrooms, squash, or loroco flower. With four locations in the Valley, pupusas are never far away.
Inspired by his birthplace of Puerto Rico, Wesley Andujar opened Puerto Rico Latin Bar and Grill to share the foods of his home and family. With cooking traditions steeped in Spanish, African and Amerindian cultures, the restaurant serves dishes that are rich, comforting and full of flavor. Stand-out dishes include the tostones al mojo (twice-fried green plantain chips with garlic), camarones al ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce) with mofongo (mashed plantain), and the flan de vanilla acaramelado (custard with caramel topping).
2714 W Thomas Rd, Phoenix 85017
When you think of Latin food, a sandwich may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But in the world of Cuban cuisine, the sandwich reigns supreme. Just ask Manuel Hernandez, owner of Cuban Foods Bakery and Restaurant in west Phoenix, where the Sandwich Cubana is elevated to a whole new level. As big as the plate it’s served on, the sandwich is made with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on Cuban bread. Wash it down with a cold bottle of Malta, a Cuban malt beverage served with or without condensed milk.
10649 N 43rd Ave, Phoenix 85029
Rather than focusing on one particular cuisine, Fuego Bistro celebrates a world of Latin flavors by giving authentic dishes a Southwestern twist. Take, for example, the Puerto Rican pernil asado. Made with slow-roasted roast pork shoulder, it’s served with orange habanero mojo sauce and local corn tortillas. A favorite in many Latin cultures, the empanadas at Fuego Bistro are stuffed with ground beef, peppers, onion, black beans and cheese, topped with Yucatan barbecue sauce. Tucked in the courtyard of the historic Pittman Fountain in north central Phoenix, the restaurant features a beautiful patio, perfect for dining under the stars.
713 E Palo Verde Dr, Phoenix 85014
Dining at Guanaquito is like uncovering buried treasure. While the restaurant is on a busy stretch of McDowell Road in central Phoenix, the entrance is around back with only a bright blue wall signaling you’ve arrived. But once you step inside, you’ll know you’ve discovered a true gem. Specializing in Salvadorian cuisine, Guanaquito serves traditional foods like papusas, pasteles (meat pies) and tamales served alongside more exotic offerings such as the pollo encebollado (chicken in white sauce with onions and herbs) and rellenos de pacaya (chilies stuffed with palm tree flower).
1438 E McDowell Rd, Phoenix 85006
There’s something to be said about a restaurant that keeps things nice and simple. Millie’s Café Puerto Rican Cuisine is one such restaurant. Located in Mesa, a suburb east of Phoenix, Millie’s offers a straightforward menu of sandwiches, sides, daily combos and desserts. But don’t let the simplicity fool you. Owner Maria Milagros Ortiz, also known as Millie, puts her love of cooking, family and her native Puerto Rico into every dish. For a true taste of Puerto Rico, try the pasteles (tamales), mofongo (mashed plantains) or the jibarito sandwich, made with plantains and pork.
1916 W Baseline Rd, Mesa 85202
Inspired by the home-style kitchens of Latin cultures, Deseo stays true to the essence of Latin cuisine, but elevates it to something more sophisticated and refined. Take the ceviche, a simple dish prepared with flaky white fish and refreshing lime juice. Deseo, which fittingly means “desire” in Spanish, elevates the dish with such offerings as lobster escabeche (lobster, avocado, chives) and mixito (shrimp, crab, sweet potato, Peruvian popcorn). Located at the Westin Kierland Resort on the border of north Phoenix and Scottsdale, the restaurant is open for dinner only, but offers drinks and limited menu items in the Muddle Bar lounge.
6902 East Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale 85254
Located in The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
While some form of empanada—a perfectly portable pocket stuffed with meats, vegetables or cheeses—is represented in cultures all over the world, the Latin variety is worthy of a restaurant all its own. Republica Empanada is just that spot. Also in Mesa, the cozy and welcoming restaurant offers more than 20 empanadas—both savory and sweet—as well as appetizers, salads and main dishes. With selections including pernil (slow-roasted pork), cubana (pork, ham, mozzarella and dill pickle) and the El Capitan (ground beef, potato, egg, green olive and golden raisin), this is Latin comfort food at its best.
204 E 1st Ave, Mesa 85210
Part market, part restaurant, La Tiendita (meaning “little store”) in Mesa is the place to go for authentic Colombian cuisine. And like many mom-and-pop businesses, this one is run lovingly by German and Marcela Pardo, along with their two daughters. It truly is a family affair. Colombian food is known for its small bites and apps, from empanadas to arepas (griddled corn cakes). Served hot and crunchy, the arepas are served in a variety of ways: with Colombian sausage, filled with cheese, or with creamed chicken on top. The restaurant also specializes in Colombian roasted chicken. Generously seasoned, it’s moist inside, crispy outside and served with thick yucca fries and rice.
456 W Main St, Mesa 85201